Hudson’s Bay review includes a closer look at controversial decision by official

Eagles moving on to non-league tilt with Woodland this week

Hudson’s Bay Eagles (2-1, 0-1 3A GSHL)

Week 1: Hudson’s Bay 31, La Salle (Ore.) 28

Week 2: Hudson’s Bay 34, Rochester 7

Week 3: Evergreen 12, Hudson’s Bay 7

Next: Woodland vs. Hudson’s Bay, 5 p.m. Friday at Kiggins Bowl

For the second year in a row, the Eagles and Plainsmen played a thrilling, close game. This one went to Evergreen. The Eagles know they have time to bounce back, though.


After scoring only seven points in last week’s loss to Evergreen in Week 3, Hudson’s Bay will look for more open field opportunities this week against Woodland. Photo by Mike Schultz
After scoring only seven points in last week’s loss to Evergreen in Week 3, Hudson’s Bay will look for more open field opportunities this week against Woodland. Photo by Mike Schultz


Officially speaking:

If you were following me on Twitter that night, you might have noticed I had some opinions on the officiating. Well, just one call by an official, but I certainly let my opinion known.

I like to remind all readers that I am a supporter of officials in all sports. Without them, these games we love so much cannot be played. I am disgusted with a lot of fan behavior toward officials.

My career as a journalist is filled with reports, not only defending officials but explaining that while some calls might be controversial, they were the right calls.

That does not mean we cannot question a decision, to try to get an explanation.

Which is why I did contact the Evergreen Football Officials Association (EFOA) on Friday night and again this week to figure out what happened at the end of the first half between Hudson’s Bay and Evergreen. I also wanted to let them know what I reported on Twitter, giving them a chance to tell me if I was wrong.

The officials have a board meeting next week and will discuss the decision I’m about to explain, and I expect some sort of explanation. But as of right now, there is no official word from the EFOA regarding this particular decision. …

What happened:

Evergreen had a fourth down from its own 2-yard line. The previous play ended with about 37 seconds left in the half. Hudson’s Bay had no timeouts. The game clock was running. The official who spotted the ball stood over the ball with about 30 seconds left. He looked at the referee, waiting for the ref to blow his whistle to signal the start of the play clock. The play clock in high school football is 25 seconds. So had the whistle blown prior to 25 seconds left, Evergreen would have been forced to snap the ball on fourth down.

With 28 seconds left on the game clock, the referee turned to look at the clock, waiting until there were 24 seconds left, then blew his whistle.

The Evergreen Plainsmen took this gift with them into halftime, not having to snap the ball.

The Hudson’s Bay Eagles, meanwhile, were ticked.

I will get to my opinion on what happened in a bit. But first …

That was awesome Hudson’s Bay:

Before going any further, let’s take a minute to give a shout out to the Eagles coaching staff for doing everything right and for the Bay players for doing everything right in order to get Evergreen into fourth-and-long from the shadow of its own end zone.

I’ve seen so many teams either misuse timeouts or not use timeouts or just figure, “Let’s get to halftime. Let’s regroup.”

Instead, the Eagles called timeout after the first-down play. Then the Eagles called their last timeout after the second-down play with 43 seconds left in the half.

Those two plays, by the way, went for negative-1 yard, putting Evergreen at its own 1-yard line.

The Eagles were out of timeouts. Still, if the third-down play was stopped, and the play didn’t take long, the Eagles felt they would have forced a fourth-down play.

Sure enough, the next play went for a yard, and very little time went off the clock.

All the Eagles, the coaches and players, did their jobs and they earned that fourth-down play. …

My personal bias:

As a journalist, I don’t care who wins these games. I just report the outcome. But as a fan of football, and a person who is an expert in clock management, I just loved what Hudson’s Bay did here to force that fourth-down play.

I believe part of my own reaction to what then happened is what led to my “Twitter rant.” (Although, I was told by an official that my rant was not too severe. Thank you for that, but it was for me, because I rarely go there.)

Anyway, I was up the press box giving compliments to Bay’s approach in that final minute, wondering how Evergreen was going to handle having to snap the ball with 3 or 4 seconds left from its own 2-yard line.

I was giddy because I love these situations. I wanted to see the fourth-down play. I wanted to report which team out-foxed the other on that fourth down. I didn’t care who won this “battle.” I just wanted to see it play out.

Then everyone in the stadium saw the referee wait until 24 seconds left before blowing his whistle. …

The fourth-down play that wasn’t:

At the time, Evergreen led 9-7 and the game would finish 12-7. So yes, having to snap the ball from the 2-yard line is a big deal. A lot of things could have happened.

Had Evergreen chose to punt, the Plainsmen would have had to snap the ball, with no room to spare, to the back of the end zone. The Eagles would have sent 10 men to try to block that punt. Get a safety. Get a touchdown. Make a play.

One possibility for the Plainsmen, but it would take practice and a lot of trust, would have been to take a delay of game penalty (for a 1-yard penalty) with 3 or 2 seconds left and then snap the ball, so they would know exactly how much time to kill during the fourth-down play; Or snap it just before the delay of game, then run around the end zone for a couple seconds and throw an incomplete pass toward an eligible receiver and let the clock run out. But even if Evergreen had decided to do that, the Plainsmen would have had to do that without getting an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone. They would have had to protect the quarterback before he threw the ball, without getting a holding penalty in the end zone.

Punt or scramble around to kill the clock, the Plainsmen would have had to execute to get out of the half with that two-point lead.

Hudson’s Bay earned the right to force Evergreen to execute.

Instead, Evergreen got to walk off the field.

Hudson’s Bay coach Ray Lions clearly was upset. He could be seen making his point.

After the game, and again this week, Lions confirmed to me that it was Bay’s strategy to get Evergreen to make a decision on fourth down. Lions, though, did not want to comment on the official’s ruling.

Also, Lions wanted to point out, this one decision did not cost Hudson’s Bay the game. It cost Hudson’s Bay one play out of more than 100. The Eagles had plenty of other opportunities. (See below in Coach Speak.) For example, the reason the Plainsmen had the ball inside their own 5-yard line was due to a Hudson’s Bay turnover with a minute to play in the half. Had the Eagles scored there, the rest of the half does not play out like it did.

My opinion on what happened:

Officials do these kinds of time things often. At the end of a game, in a game already decided, an official might wait until less than 25 seconds left on a game clock so teams don’t have to snap in victory formation. Or, at the end of the first half, if the ball is on, say, the 40-yard line and the other team is out of timeouts and it’s third down, an official might wait five or six seconds before blowing the whistle for the play clock to begin. No point in having to snap another play – that’s the thinking.

It is my opinion that the official in Friday’s game simply lost track of the down. It was still a mistake, but it was not intentional to hurt Bay’s chances.

I have no idea if Lions communicated with the official on his sideline what the Eagles wanted to accomplish there. Perhaps the Bay coaches will do that if there is a next time, remind the officials that the other team has a fourth down coming up and that the play clock should start as soon as possible.

Kind of like a hurry-up defense, if you will.

The official clearly waited to blow his whistle while looking at the clock. The only logical explanation is he did not know it was fourth down.

It likely is a training moment for the officials.

Another media member from up north suggested it is time that officials stop manipulating the clock regardless of the situation. Good point. Still, no one really has a problem with it when the game is decided. Or when it’s close to halftime and it’s clear both teams just want to get to the locker room.

Coach Speak:

What did Ray Lions learn about his team in Week 3? We need to take care of the ball. Unfortunately we have had multiple games where we have turned the ball over at least three times. No matter how you scheme or play, anytime you give the ball away that many times it becomes difficult to win.  

“Defensively we will need to do a better job of closing out series by defending third down.  We did a great job of getting them to third down, but we need to tighten up coverage and pursue the QB.

“As for the positive, we continued to remain focused and believe the game was ours to win.  The defense made stands when we needed them to and allowed for decent field position for most of the game.

“Another positive was that we broke the final time that night on ‘Family.’  It has been a core value and we have never asked for them to break on any certain term. This is a group of special players who believe we are in this together from beginning to end.  We were frustrated with the loss, but know our future is bright as long as we remain together.  The goal remains … Kings of the South.”

There was more solid clock management in this one, too. Lions commented:
“The other part of clock management I was happy with was that we stopped their drive and called timeouts with one minute remaining at the end of the game. That was at least enough to get a couple shots downfield to set up a potential Hail Mary or designed play.”

MVP on offense: “Quadrese Teague. He was our one explosive play that we have known him to be capable of. The one play Quadrese completed forced the defense to account for potential one-on-one situations which allowed for other areas to attack.”  … Lions added another play when Teague had to go from offense to defense, pursuing after an interception.  “I was proud of his effort to stop a potential interception for a touchdown. His has been a receiver who has worked on taking care of the details and applying them each game.”

MVPs on defense: Derek Barnes and Carter Morse. “Derek made some plays in the backfield as a first-time defensive tackle. He had to learn the position that week and has been a utility defender for us. Carter had our one turnover we caused that allowed for great field position prior to the half. Not only did he get the interception but his coverage for the evening limited throws his way.”

Thoughts on Week 4 vs. Woodland:Woodland is a dynamic and an aggressive team,’’ Lions said. “They have some similarities to our Week 3 opponent.  Everyone should be familiar with Flanagan and Harsh, the two have stretched defenses with their talent. It will be important to keep them in check. More importantly, it will be up to us to play our game. No matter our opponent, we should utilize our talent on the exterior and backfield. A balanced attack will be important, especially leading up to another league game next week.”

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